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Natalie Colehower
October 18, 2023

Misery Loves Company

**Content warning: This is one person’s story; everyone will have unique experiences in recovery and beyond. Some stories may mention eating disorder thoughts, behaviors, and symptoms. Please use your discretion when reading and speak with your support system as needed.

Natalie Colehower (she/her) is a 23-year-old Auburn University graduate currently living in Atlanta, Georgia. After her experience at Veritas Collaborative’s Eating Disorder Treatment Center in Atlanta, she has a calling to share her story and encourage those struggling that they are worthy just as they are!

Examining Your Relationship With Food

Have you ever considered your relationship with food? Is it positive, negative, a combination of both, or neutral? You could be rolling your eyes reading this and say, “Natalie I don’t think about food, I just eat what I want when I want and it’s not a ‘relationship,’ it’s food!”

That’s great! That is what I would call a positive relationship with food because it is joyful, and not bogged down by the food rules of society. That is where I strive to be one day.

I’m speaking to those of us who see food in not such a joyful light. Like a bad relationship, maybe your mind uses food to gaslight you, guilt you, scare you, or shame you. Maybe the strict food rules that have been drilled into you since childhood have slowly become rules that you live by—believing them to be the key to a “healthy” diet. This is the experience that I’ve had, but since I cannot speak for you, that’s where we will start.

Eating Disorders Try to Drag You Down

During my time in eating disorder treatment, we were tasked to write a letter to food. In this assignment, we examined our relationships with nourishing our bodies and explored where the origin of our food thoughts began.

Mine began a little like this: “My life partner, and yet, my worst enemy, I have been conditioned to fear you. I have been trained to pick out the good from the bad and demonize you. Our relationship isn’t personal, it’s not mutual, and I don’t think I’ve ever had the courage to nurture it. I simply listen to the words of the world, telling me what I should do next, what is good and what is bad, and why I should avoid you.”

This sparked a conviction in me that I must share. If you are basing your relationship with a significant other on rumors, gossip, one person’s experience with them, or what a disgruntled “friend” thinks you should do, is it really YOUR relationship? No, it is a relationship based on the opinions of those around you, and that is about as impersonal as it gets!

Consider this: You have a friend who just went through a hard breakup. They are insecure and start to pick apart your flourishing, healthy, and joyful relationship. They begin making up rumors about their fidelity or their intentions, convincing you that you also should join them in the insecurity they feel. You can clearly see that they feel alone and they want to bring you down with them.

The point I am trying to drive home, my friend, is that misery loves company. In the same way this toxic friend may want to break up your relationship so you can join them in their despair, the diet culture of society feeds you lies to make you doubt your relationship with food. We have all seen “influencers” and advertisers supply us with rumors and myths about food to lead us to avoid certain food groups, try their supplements, or buy their juice cleanse. 

You Cannot Live a Full Life on an Empty Stomach

In the same way you wouldn’t base your relationship with a significant other on rumors and lies, don’t listen to the lies of diet culture saying that you eat too much and workout too little. You were made to enjoy nourishing your body and exploring your personal relationship with food! Maybe that influencer you follow is allergic to gluten, but that doesn’t mean you need to cut out carbs. That may be what’s right for them, but not what’s right for you. Find out what you like, what makes your body feel good, and what makes you enjoy nourishing your body.

My friend, please don’t believe the toxic rumors that diet culture is trying to push. Nourishing your body is not only not a sin, but you need to do it to survive and thrive. Food is necessary to focus on your goals, socialize and make memories, and enjoy life freely! Take back your relationship with food. Don’t let your eating disorder tell you what you can and cannot eat.